Your hospital bills are coming in fast, but the insurance company hasn’t even made a settlement offer on your car accident claim yet. The stress of watching bills pile up while the insurance claims process drags on and on is a frustration many crash victims face.
Investigating, documenting, filing, and negotiating a traffic accident claim is a complex process that takes time. And unfortunately, timeliness is not a quality for which most big insurance agencies are known.
We encourage our clients to remember that, if you have an experienced auto accident attorney on your side, the wait is worth it.
A fair settlement doesn’t typically happen overnight. But when the process is handled with skill, patience, and care, you have the best chance of complete financial recovery for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. In fact, settling too quickly usually means you’re not getting the full amount of compensation to which you are legally entitled.
Below, we’ll walk through the auto accident settlement timeline you can anticipate if you were injured in a vehicle crash in Houston.
Looking for more information about the settlement timeline specific to your car accident case? The attorneys at The Mejia Law Firm can evaluate your case details during a free consultation to give you a better picture of how long your case will likely take.
Is There an Exact Timeline for Settling an Auto Accident Claim?
There is no set timeline for an auto accident claim. No two cases are quite the same. Because there are so many factors unique to each case, a car accident claim can take a few weeks, months, or even years to finally reach a resolution.
Simpler cases can usually be settled relatively quickly, while more complex cases require more time. It is generally only the cases that can’t reach an out-of-court settlement—and must go to trial through a personal injury lawsuit—that will take up to a year or more to be finalized.
Instead of an exact timeline, you can expect a general progression of events that must take place. Certain factors will affect how quickly each of these steps can be completed.
What Factors Affect How Long My Car Accident Claims Process Will Take?
Factors that can impact the length of time required to settle a motor vehicle accident claim include:
- The severity of your injuries and property damage
- How long it will take you to reach maximum medical improvement (MMI)
- If you will fully recover from your injuries or experience permanent impairment
- How many parties were involved in the crash
- Whether liability is being disputed
- How many parties (and their insurance companies) are responsible for paying for damages caused by the crash
- The insurance policies of the involved parties
- The willingness of the insurance company to cooperate in settlement negotiations
- The skill of the attorney representing you
- Whether any government agencies or commercial vehicles were involved
- Laws in the jurisdiction in which the accident occurred
5 Basic Steps in the Auto Accident Settlement Timeline
Below are the basic steps to expect in the auto accident settlement timeline. There are always exceptions to the rule, but you can generally anticipate that you and your lawyer will need to go through the following five steps.
1. Contact the Insurance Provider
In Texas, motorists must carry auto insurance coverage. Most policies require you to report any accident immediately, although the exact amount of time you have to report your crash may vary depending on your provider and policy terms.
Texas law requires all vehicle owners to carry auto liability insurance of at least these minimum amounts:
- $30,000 for injuries per person
- $60,000 per accident
- $25,000 for property damage
Be careful not to admit fault or discuss liability when you report the crash. These details are not clear yet. Simply state the facts of the accident and inform the insurance adjuster that you are seeking medical treatment and that your attorney will be in touch.
Your lawyer will need to investigate to identify the at-fault motorist and their insurance provider. If there are multiple liable parties, the driver was uninsured or underinsured, or you were injured in a hit-and-run accident, your case will become more complicated.
2. Calculate Compensation
Before you can request compensation from the liable party’s insurance company, you need to figure out exactly how much you are owed. This usually involves waiting to see how long you need to treat your injuries until you fully recover or reach MMI. The more severe your injuries, the longer this process will take.
A person’s life can be impacted in various ways by an auto accident. You may be out of work, you may need to find child care services while you recover, or you may be experiencing mental health challenges following your crash. All these and many other factors will impact your compensation award.
Your attorney must have a full understanding of the various economic and noneconomic ways your life was altered by your accident—so they can ask for maximum compensation to cover all your losses. If you try to settle too quickly, you may not know about an added medical complication, for example, that could arise a few weeks after your initial injury and require ongoing treatment.
Damages in auto crash cases that may necessitate compensation include:
- Medical care costs
- Lost income
- Lost earning capacity
- Future medical expenses
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Permanent disability
- Transportation costs
- Domestic services
- Out-of-pocket expenses
3. Send a Demand Letter
Once your injuries have reached a stable point and your lawyer has calculated a fair and reasonable settlement amount, the next step is to notify the insurance company.
This is usually done with a legal document called a demand letter. Your attorney will write and send a demand letter that specifies how much compensation you are requesting. Included will be arguments for why the company is liable for compensation, the facts of the collision, why you are entitled to the compensation amount requested, and supporting evidence.
There is a mandatory format and required provisions for a legal document like a demand letter, so your legal advocate can craft the demand letter on your behalf and have you approve the details.
4. Negotiate With the Insurance Company
Many times, the insurance company will not agree to the amount specified in the demand letter. This will open the negotiation period. The company will argue for a lower amount, often demanding more evidence and documentation to support your claim.
It’s critical that you are represented by a skilled negotiator during this process. If you don’t have a lawyer to see through tricky insurance tactics or know where to secure the evidence to prove your claim, you risk losing out on the compensation you need to cover your bills.
5. Reach a Settlement or File a Lawsuit
With the help of a good lawyer, you will usually be able to reach a settlement out of court. Few auto accident claims go to trial. However, should the insurance company refuse to play fair, your only option may be to file a personal injury lawsuit.
At The Mejia Law Firm, we prepare all our cases for trial. We expect to reach a pre-trial settlement, but are fully prepared to advocate for you in front of a judge and jury if the insurance company does not treat your claim with the respect it deserves.
How Long After Settlement Will I Receive Compensation?
The final step in the auto accident settlement timeline is the goal you’ve been working toward—obtaining financial compensation. But you won’t be handed cash the second your claim is settled.
After a settlement has been reached, both parties will need to sign forms, and the insurance company will need to make funds available and issue a check to you and the attorney representing you.
In Texas, the funds must first go through a client trust account used under state safekeeping property laws. This is to help ensure that funds belonging to you are kept separate from the lawyer’s finances. The percentage of the award amount allotted to attorney’s fees can then be taken out of the total settlement, any outstanding debts can be paid off, and you can receive your financial compensation.
This whole process may take an additional few weeks to complete, but your legal advocate will continue to expedite the process to make sure you receive your deserved funds as quickly as possible.
We Can Help You Smoothly Navigate the Auto Accident Settlement Timeline
If you were injured in a motor vehicle accident in Greater Houston, The Mejia Law Firm can help make the process of recovering compensation for crash injuries easier.
Contact us for a free consultation to discuss the specifics of your case. There is no obligation or fee associated with learning more about the auto accident claims process and how we can help you obtain a full and fair settlement.